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In the expression of developmental and other forms of psychological trauma there are common difficulties for people in identifying, expressing, and managing emotions, including a limited language for, or understanding of, their own feeling states and the feeling states (and intentions) of others. People with various types of trauma often internalize and/or externalize their reactions to all types of stress. With internalization, there is an affect of internal oppression of the self. This may manifest as trauma responses such as negative self talk, self-judgment, self-neglect, self-shaming and degradation of all flavors, as well as self-isolation or shut-down (for just a few examples). With externalization, there is an affect of external oppression of others. This may manifest as trauma responses such as defensive outbursts of rage, judgment, passive-aggressive avoidance or neglect, shaming or gas-lighting others, physical or verbal abuse, etc. As a result of this unconscious internal / external oppression, both the oppressor and the receiver of the oppression may experience significant depression, anxiety, anger, and/or a wide array of often chronic and lengthy physical illnesses.
In addition to trauma, humans all unconsciously create psychological "constructs" in order to understand and relate to themselves and the world around them. It's a limited way of making meaning of ourselves and our world. Constructs form our unconscious defense mechanisms (which often look exactly like the trauma responses noted above) and they limit our ability to grow, mature and evolve our self-awareness and consciousness. Our defense mechanisms can present as: identification, attachment, denial, repression, projection, displacement, regression, intellectualization / rationalize, reaction formation, dissociation, altruism, humor, sublimation, suppression... to name a few. These defense mechanisms are an equal form of internal and external oppression, mirroring those that develop through traumas. Life is challenging. The challenges don't always equate to trauma, however the difficulties of life inform how we construct our self identity, our relationship with ourselves and with the world around us. No one escapes the formation of constructs.
The unconscious practices of internal / external oppression noted above are all unconscious survival strategies, and they work because they do keep us alive in most cases.
When we investigate the origins of trauma and our all-too-human constructs and defense mechanisms the search inevitably leads us to the origins of oppression. How did we get this way? How did we end up like this? Seeking the root of oppression, we can trace this psychological dynamic back to at least 12,000 years ago, at the end of egalitarianism / hunter-gatherer society and the advent of agriculture. Research tells us that the development of agricultural practices was an existential survival response to localized and wide-spread over-population and humanity's lack of ability to maintain balance with nature due to this over-population.
Read this short essay before continuing on https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/nature-origins-oppression
Over these last 12,000 years, generations upon generations of humans have been born into a way of relating to the world, to other humans and to themselves as is informed by this inescapable collective survival strategy called oppression(both the internal and external forms of oppression noted above). On the one hand, we could argue that the strategy has worked. Here we are today having not only survived, but having grown from a mere 1 to 15 million in population during the start of the agricultural era to a current global population of 7.9 billion people. We are indeed surviving, but looking at the billions of humans struggling with physical and psychological health issues, evidence for which we can look to the financial positioning of the pharmaceutical industry at large, suicide rates, depression, wars, racism, genocide, and on and on, we can make a stronger argument for a collective illness that is actually killing us. In fact, birth rates world-wide have been declining for many years (although that's is an entirely different rabbit hole to go down).
Modern integral psychology teaches us that healing our trauma and updating our unconscious use of the divisive defense mechanisms employed through our self / world constructs and trauma responses, is most effectively done through a slow and careful somatic healing approach that includes attention to how these sensations live in the body as well as the mind. Somatic healing can be done through endless creative ways and means that are as unique as each individual and their particular needs, but essentially this refers to a practice of carefully bringing the unconscious feelings and constructs we hold on to firmly for our survival, into the light of awareness. This can be done in such a way that once we see the constructs and defenses we can finally acknowledge how they have helped us to survive and we can understand our unconscious intention behind them - what it was that we actually wanted for ourselves (which usually boils down to love, safety and/or a sense of belonging).
Incremental acceptance, acknowledgment and genuine welcoming of every single aspect of ourselves that holds a belief, feeling, or strategy for doing life / relationships, etc. is vital to our individual healing process. We literally have to "accept ourselves" more fully than we can realize by this over-used and trite statement around self-acceptance. It takes time, it takes diligence, it takes compassion, it also takes a certain amount of being witnessed and accepted by compassionate others while we are in our full expression of ourselves (#no-self-filter). Anyone who has ever devoted themselves to trauma-healing will understand this need for complex devotion and infinite compassion.
But the reality is that most people don't engage in this healing work at all throughout their entire lives. They are so indoctrinated into this 12,000 year old survival strategy and their ways of coping with their physical and emotional pains of life, regardless of whether they've experienced trauma or they're just practicing normal human defense mechanisms, that they don't even question it. They accept these behaviors at face value rather than diving underneath to inquire and ultimately understand their own motivations and influencing factors, while at the same time they complain about the impact they experience when others are engaging in the very same behaviors around them.
In somatic healing for individuals, we are invited to create space to carefully unearth all the internal oppression that resides in our unconscious. I propose that "healing the world" aka ending oppression, requires the exact same approach to healing as the somatic method suggests for individuals, but on a mass global scale. How could we possibly begin to heal the global practice of internal and external oppression at all levels of our existence when we are collectively so illiterate and unskilled with understanding how we are oppressing ourselves through our will to just survive until tomorrow?
Ending oppression globally would mean that collectively, we have compassion, we move slowly and patiently, we welcome, invite and accept fully all behaviors as a tragic expression of unmet needs that all started with genuinely good intentions (for love, safety and/or a sense of belonging) - without blaming, shaming or otherwise abusing ourselves OR each other - internally, within our families, within our communities, locally, globally - truly collectively.
"They" say (there was an actual study done!! here) that we need 25% of people in any group to agree and act in accordance with that agreement in order to affect wide-spread change. To “tip the scales”, so to speak. So, if that theory holds water then we need 1.975 billion people to become skilled enough at deep self-understanding and compassionate communication in order to end oppression and effectively "heal the world".
If only the self-help industry wasn't wrought with unscrupulous opportunistic teachers and leaders who are not yet healed themselves and unconsciously teach narcissism, shaming and blaming tactics, avoidance (aka transcendence), spiritual bypassing, etc. We might be making some headway on reaching the tipping point into positive global change.
CALL TO ACTION
Study developmental trauma and somatic healing. Be brave and embark on your own somatic healing journey. Find teachers with integrity who aren't trying to get rich and aren't trying to tell you to get rich too by following their 7 steps to health and wholeness. Start to ask a lot of questions about why you really do the things you do. Be painfully truthful with yourself!! Be compassionately truthful with others!! Be curious!!! Grow your compassion muscles for self and others. Be weary and questioning of any and all systems (including families, friends, groups, communities, political factions, religions and spiritual practices) that encourage you to see yourself as better than, smarter then, more moral than, more “woke” than anyone else anywhere. Hierarchy of all forms is leading us to our demise.
It's time to heal.